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Getting your children ready for school or to leave the house can be a challenge. Here’s a fun way to encourage them to cooperate.

Do you find yourself nagging and shouting a lot in the mornings? Try ‘Beat the buzzer’, a game developed by researchers from RMIT University, Victoria.

The key to this game is rewarding your child for being on time and ready. Praising your child will make an enormous difference.Parents often don’t feel like praising their child for being ready on time because it’s behaviour that is expected. But if you don’t praise it, don’t expect it!

How to play 'Beat the buzzer'

  1. Explain that you want to introduce a game called ‘Beat the buzzer’ to help with getting ready in the mornings.
  2. Establish a ‘ready time’ – your child must be ready for school at this time.
  3. Together, write a list of what your child needs to do in the morning. With younger children, you do the writing, but ask them to help you draw a picture for each step. Explain exactly what you expect children to do on their own and what you will help with. The list might look something like this:
    • Eat breakfast.
    • Get dressed.
    • Brush teeth/wash face/brush hair.
    • Pack bag.
    • Put on jacket/hat/shoes.
  4. When you have a list that you’re both happy with, put it up where your child can check it throughout the morning.
  5. Explain to your child what will happen if he is ready on time, and what will happen if he isn’t.
  6. Choose some special rewards for beating the buzzer. Make up a simple chart to keep track of success with ticks or stickers. Activities with mum or dad are often the most effective rewards.
  7. Choose some appropriate consequences for not being ready. These could include not being allowed to watch TV, or going to bed 10-15 minutes earlier.
  8. Set the timer and leave your child to it. Let her know that you have set the kitchen timer for the required amount of time. Now it’s up to her.
  9. Watch for your child being independent and responsible. Praise and encourage him. But avoid giving reminders and instructions – this will just lead you back to nagging and fighting.
  10. If your child gets all the tasks done by the time the buzzer sounds, she wins.
Encourage your child to check the list rather than telling him what to do next. This will help him become more independent. It also reduces nagging from you.

After a week or two of success, begin to phase out the rewards over another 3-4 weeks. Your child might need to be on time two, three, four, then five days in a row to earn the reward (make the reward a little bigger each time). Then make rewards a surprise. Your child won’t know when a reward is on offer – it just happens every now and then.

Even when your child is regularly ready on time, praise her occasionally.

When your child is not ready

If at the end of the time your child isn’t ready:

  • Calmly let him know that the buzzer has sounded, and get him ready.
  • Remind her that she can try again the following morning.
  • Follow through with the consequence you decided on.
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  • Last Updated 29-06-2010
  • Last Reviewed 06-08-2009